Nils Lofgren has worn numerous hats over his lengthy career, with probably the most high-profile one — to the average music fan, anyway — being his integral support to such megastars as Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Ringo Starr; playing guitar as part of their touring and recording bands.
However, as deeper-involved fans well know, the musician has an extensive and highly varied catalog of his own material, which is celebrated this month with the release of a comprehensive (to say the least) boxed set, titled Face the Music.
Just how comprehensive the tracklisting is might surprise even seasoned collectors: It contains 169 tracks, which range all the way back to Lofgren’s early work in 1968 with his Washington, D.C.-area band Grin, up to his major-label solo albums and collection of independent self-released music. All in all the set comprises nine CDs, one DVD, and a 136-page booklet containing illustrations and personal reflections on his body of work.
“I’ve been blessed to be in these great bands,” Lofgren says, “And so a lot people don’t even know that I write, or sing! And that’s the beauty of it…I can get out in front of 300 people, they don’t know what record deals I had, or for how long. They’re like, entertain us.”
Lofgren himself admits performance is his favorite part of what he does; that said, one might think that the process of sitting down to curate volumes of material from his entire career span would be a tedious task for someone who would rather be actually playing. However, Lofgren said he was excited to be asked to take it on.
“To my surprise, they said they wanted to do this…a retrospective of my entire 45 years,” he says. “That’s how the ball got rolling.”
He explains the extent of the process: “I was excited because my music—a lot of it—was out of print. So we got serious about the scope of it—meaning, 9 cds and a DVD— and I realized over hundreds and hundreds of those recordings I could fill up those discs with my favorites…but that would require going back and looking at hundreds of songs I’d recorded.
“And I haven’t really done that. I don’t listen to my music that much. Thus the title, Face the Music–it was really looking at everything.”
“The record company had their good ideas, and then they said, ‘It’s your boxed set, so you pick.’ They asked me to make the final choices and decisions, including every song.”
Lofgren recently visited the Yahoo Music studios to perform some of his favorites, as well as discuss the process behind putting together his career retrospective in an excluisive interview.
“To look back 45 years,” he muses, “It’s pretty stunning. It’s something I’ve never done before, and had given up hope of doing, and I’m very excited about it.”